Celebrating Indian Books for Children

The jury for the Economist Crossword awards, children’s books, said:

Writing for children demands the best and the freshest of a writer’s imagination, backed by a high degree of editorial skill … We looked for empathy rather than discrimination, fun rather than instruction, audacity rather than political correctness, wonder rather than world-weary ennui – and came away disappointed. We didn’t find the quality of timelessness that so distinguishes award-winning material. 

 Needless to say, as children’s publishers we feel a bit like we have flunked an exam.
To console ourselves, we are thinking of children’s books published in India which have all the qualities so well listed by the jury. And we want to know which books you think fulfil this criterion. So tell us (in fifty to hundred words per book), about one Indian book which you think is of award-winning quality. Criterion: needs to have been published in the last ten years in India. If you are a writer, artist or publisher, put those hats away and think only as a reader. Let us celebrate the wonderful books we have as we look forward to the fabulous books to come.


  1. Wisha Wozzariter by Payal Kapadia – just published. Not easy to pull off a story that DOES the thing it’s TELLING you about how to do (ie write a story/become a writer) – and all with such blitheness of spirit and ease of language and oodles of charm. Lovely book (Puffin).

  2. I quite liked the Mystery Of The Secret Hair Oil Formula although it was a little rushed. WOuld have loved more details. At the risk of sounding biased, I quite like the zain and ana adventures. And the favorite now days is ‘This book makes no sense’! I know that’s more than one book but I loved them all. If i had to pick one, I would go for Ghosts dont eat (the latest in Zain and ana series).

  3. There’s a Ghost in My PC by Payal Dhar – recently published. It is a charming and delightful book. Taking off from what the jury had to say I think it is slightly hypocritical to say we should avoid “political correctness” because it is something that we expect a book to have but unobstrusively. Similarly “instructions” come from an author’s ideas or even a lightness of touch – rather than from telling a person how to live their life. But I i do agree with the essence of the statement and perhaps we need not feel defensive if the last year was not as good as earlier ones because, yes, there have always been fabulous books and there always will.

  4. Today Is My Day by Anushka Ravishankar! It has fun, audacity, wonder – everything that the judges went looking for this year. It’s well-written, well-illustrated and well-produced – not always present together for the many great stories that do exist in Indian writing for children.

    I haven’t read the books on this year’s list but I don’t think that it’s bad idea to refrain from giving an award if the books are not great – always good to push for better work. But I wonder how it is possible to judge a picture book for 3 year olds with one for young adults or even for 10 year olds. So, ‘children’s writing’ as a category for a single award is something that should be debated too. No?

  5. Completely agree with Samina. How do you judge a picture book against a YA novel? The distinction is absolutely necessary.

    WRT the Crossword decision: While we should push for better work, the idea is not to give awards to the best book that could possibly be, but to the best books among available contenders. Therefore, if XYZ book wins the award in 2012, it doesn’t mean that it is the best book that could have been written in 2012, it means that it was the best book submitted for the award in 2012. Otherwise why even bother to call for entries? The honourable mentions felt incredibly hypocritical and insulting, given what they had to say about the contenders.

    Here are our picks: The Why-Why Girl by Mahasweta Devi and Kanyika Kini, The Fivetongued Firefanged Folkadotted Dragon Snake by Anushka Ravishankar and Indrapramit Roy (not sure if this one is within the last ten years though), Sampurna Chatterji’s translations of Sukumar Ray, Hanuman’s Ramayana by Devdutt Pattananaik, Mayil Will Not Be Quiet by Sowmya Rajendran, Ismat’s Eid by Fawzia Gilani Williams and Proiti Roy, Dino-long-as-127-kids by Geeta Dharmarajan and Rajiv Eipe, Icky Yucky Mucky by Natasha Sharma and Anitha Balachandran, Book Uncle and Me by Uma Krishnaswami (honestly, anything by Uma Krishnaswami!), a lot of the folk-arts books from Tara as well. Also really love the idea of Where’s Hanuman book from Puffin.

    From our own lists, The Rumour by Anushka Ravishankar and Kanyika Kini, Dorje’s Stripes by Anshumani Ruddra, Gwangjo and Jung-a Park, The Blue Jackal by Shobha Viswanath and Dileep Joshi, Kutti and the Mouse by Shobha Viswanath and Malavika P.C.

    • Karadi Tales: All lovely books, books one would love to read, and most of which we read with great pleasure, but are they ALL truly award-worthy? Maybe we should not confuse lovely books with outstanding books?

  6. Sanket Pethkar’s Monster Slick and the Magic Umbrella. Since we’re on the subject of picture books, this is one imaginatively written, impressively illustrated, and deserves more attention than it got. Unfortunately, Crossword seems to have always glossed over the picture book format, giving the nod (almost involuntarily it seems) to more traditional ones.

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